COVID-19: Retail businesses can reopen physical outlets on Friday with safety measures in place

SINGAPORE — You can soon shop at retail stores, dine in at restaurants and exercise at stadiums with safe distancing measures in place, as Singapore enters its second phase of reopening on Friday (19 June).

Several types of businesses, such as retail and health and wellness, will be allowed to reopen their physical outlets while patrons are allowed to dine in at restaurants, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Monday (15 June) during a virtual COVID-19 press conference helmed by the multi-ministry taskforce.

But the default measure of a safe distance of one metre between individuals will be in place. Alternatively, if this measure is not possible, groups of up to five each can gather with a safe distance of one metre between groups.

Sports, parks, and public facilities will also re-open. These include playgrounds, beaches, lawns and fields, stadia, swimming complexes, sports halls, hardcourts, gyms, fitness studios, bowling centres, and function rooms. This applies also to similar facilities in private settings such as condominiums and clubs.

However, venues that are used for activities involving large numbers of people in closed spaces for prolonged periods of time, will remain closed, such as libraries, exhibitions, bars, nightclubs, cinemas, theatres, indoor and outdoor attractions.

Religious congregations and services will also take more time before resumption is allowed.

“Overseas and local experience has shown that these settings can spawn large clusters of infections, given the number of close contacts between individuals in the course of such activities,” said the authorities.

All other healthcare services, including eldercare services in the community, individual health screening, and aesthetic services, will resume with safe distancing measures in place. Face-to-face visitations at residential facilities for the elderly (including nursing homes, welfare homes, sheltered homes and adult disability homes) will also resume with precautionary measures in place.

The full list of what can reopen will be updated on the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s website.

Restrictions will, however, be in place, such as subjecting F&B outlets to the ceasing of alcohol sales at 10.30pm. Private enrichment classes can too resume with the exception of singing and voice training classes.

“We will not allow live music or video because this will result in people speaking loudly and spreading droplets,” said Wong.

However, businesses must submit the number of workers who are working on-site via the GoBusiness portal within two weeks of the date of resumption of on-site operations, before reopening.

“In the interest of reducing physical contact between individuals, telecommuting must remain the default for all businesses where feasible,” said the authorities.

Larger public venues with high human traffic such as malls and large standalone retail outlets will remain subject to capacity limits, and operators will be required to prevent crowds or long queues from building up within and in the immediate vicinity of their premises.

Meanwhile, enforcement officers and safe distancing ambassadors will remain on the ground to ensure that safety measures are adhered to. Gan acknowledged that it is “difficult and challenging” to try to prescribe rules or regulations for every possible scenario and setting.

“And I'm sure even as we draw up the rules, people will be thinking of how to get around the rules. So they always find ways to try to get around the rules, try to fool the social distance ambassadors.

“But I must say that you can fool the rules, but you cannot fool the virus. If you violate the rules, the virus will get to you. The purpose and objective of the rules and regulations is to protect you and not just to penalise you.”

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